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Putting the "Social" Back in Social Media


By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Lately, I've observed a disturbing trend among the writing community on social media sites—the lack of interaction. Hordes of writers are populating Twitter and Facebook. But over the past year, there's been a steady decline in person-to-person socializing among all those writers.

Instead of having real-time communication, nowadays social media—particularly Twitter—has become one big infomercial.

As I watched the live stream of tweets one morning, almost every tweet was a plug for something. Here are just a few of the tweets I saw in about one minute of looking:

"I'd love more 'likes' on my FB Author Page. Help me out, but only if you want to [insert link]."

"Some of the best fantasy in the world comes from right here [insert blog]. Stop by and follow to keep up with the best."

"Don't forget your favorite vampire antho is now in the #kindle store! [insert link]"

For every one tweet from someone attempting to have a real conversation, there were about 10 tweets from people promoting books, blogs, businesses, or some other social media site.

The twitter stream that morning was mostly SPAM. And watching it disheartened me.

I think there are a number of reasons for the decline of socializing on social media sites:

1. The newness of a site fades and the initial enthusiasm wans. When that happens we tend to slow down in how much time we spend on particular sites.

2. We don't know what to say anymore. Perhaps after time we've said everything witty or interesting about ourselves, and we don't feel we have anything left to say.

3. We've grown disillusioned with social media. Perhaps we thought it would bring about some measure of success. And when that didn't happen as quickly or easily as we'd hoped, we fall away from using it regularly.

4. As we add in more social media sites, we become spread too thin. We don't have the time to spend on each site to adequately connect with our followers in meaningful ways.

5. As we become busier in our writing careers, we've had to prioritize our workload. Socializing on twitter or facebook has to take backseat to other responsibilities.

6. After trying to do it all, we eventually get burned out. We tell ourselves that we don't want to disappear completely, so we schedule interesting links, quotes, or promos about our books in order to keep our avatars in the public spotlight.

All of the above can happen to the best of us. I'm guilty. There are times when I've been too tired or busy to socialize. It's during those lulls that I fall into the trap of sending the "social" in social media on a vacation and start treating my sites like billboards. When we reach that point, we're better off to give ourselves a break, unplug for a few days or a week, and then come back energized.

Even though all of the above factors have likely contributed to all of us misusing social media on occasion, I think the BIGGEST CULPRIT in the demise of socializing on social media is the increased numbers of authors jumping into self-Epublishing. 

The self-Epublishing surge has increased the numbers of books being published as well as the number of authors needing to promote. As more and more authors (traditional AND self-published) compete to attract readers, they become more desperate in their marketing efforts. Many mistakenly believe that social media is the magic bullet in the scramble to get "discovered." And many also mistakenly employ traditional marketing methods on social media.

And thus our twitter streams have become clogged with everyone shouting about their books. But as the shouting has grown louder, no one can be heard any more. It's just noise. A lot of unpleasant noise.

So what am I suggesting? Should we stop promoting ourselves and our books on Twitter?

After all, I'm not really sure that social media boosts sales. (Read my recent post: Does Social Media Really Help With Success?)

Perhaps we don't need to take a drastic approach and cut out any mention of our books at all. But maybe we can work harder at putting the social back into social media, in making social media a community where we can come together for support, encouragement, and information.

Even if we never sell another book as a result of social media, we can all still benefit from being apart of the community of writers who are there for one another in all of the challenges we face.

Social media can be a place where we can share our joys and frustrations with other writers who "get it." It can be a place where we learn collectively how to be better writers and navigate the ever-changing industry. And it can definitely be a place for us to relate on a personal level with our readers.

I like Kristen Lamb's Rule of Three for social media interaction: 1/3 Information (link to your blog), 1/3 Reciprocation (RT for someone else), 1/3 CONVERSATION.

So no, it's not "wrong" to post informative links to blogs or to retweet or make an occasional plug for your book. BUT, we can't do it to the exclusion of having conversations.

We need to be there and be real. Because ultimately people are more important than products.

How about you? Have you noticed a decline in interaction on social media and an increase in promotion? How does it make you feel? 



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